Sunday night’s Game of Thrones Series finale left millions of fans gasping a collective “what the actual F$*K?”… this fan included. I’m not ready to sign a petition for a Game of Thrones Season 8 do-over like many millions of fans have today, yet I can’t escape the feeling that the entire episode, perhaps even the entire season was half-baked.
I’m not alone. Every news outlet from The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, even FOX News and Vogue have posted an opinion piece on the overall disappointing end to an otherwise epic story.
If you read the books (you have read them right?), you might feel the same. People immediately are comparing this to the Sopranos less than stellar ending. The Sopranos was a great series, but it didn’t have the pedigree of 5000+ pages of text to draw from.
At its worst, the Sopranos was a conglomerate of wiseguy stereotypes taken directly from Robert Deniro mob vehicles like ‘Good Fellas’ and ‘Analize This’ …at it’s best, it gave the late James Gandolfini a long overdue chance to show his meaty acting chops. Sorry, but The Sopranos is no Game of Thrones. Not even close.
GOT – Best Series Ever?
Game of Thrones was wholly original in a way we haven’t seen on TV before. Fans of the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ books have long praised George R.R. Martin’s ability to craft a character driven story that strayed away from the campy stereotypes of his contemporaries while keeping one foot in the pool of Tolkien-esque fantasy and lore that defined a genre.
HBO threw more money at this series than any TV show in history, and it showed. Big budget Hollywood blockbuster production values, top notch acting and that source material… Martin’s epic (at the start of the series) 4 volume saga with a 5th, ‘A Dance of Dragons’, soon to follow.
Even after the disappointing finale, I still feel it was the best show ever.
Where Game of Thrones went wrong
Show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff did an admirable job of adapting this seemingly unadaptable story into arguably the greatest series of all time… when they had that source material. Unfortunately for them (and the fans), Martin failed to deliver the 6th volume, ‘The Winds of Winter’, before the promised season 6 deadline.
Season 7 was good because they had the basic framework of the story (provided by Martin). It was easy to fill in those blanks. There was at the very least a blueprint from which to draw from. After Martin failed yet again to deliver an end to the story, even skipping a year of production, the producers and HBO had no choice but to go ahead with Season 8 production.
Look I get it, I write. I write a lot. It’s not as easy as you think it is. I miss my own deadlines, I’m no George R.R. Martin. Yet, here we are in 2019 and Martin has again pushed the estimated delivery date of the 6th Game of Thrones book into 2021. The 7th and final installment, ‘A Dream of Spring’ … who knows? 2031? I mean that’s the timeline he’s been following, right?
Trying to write a Game of Thrones Season 8 without a new book is akin to doing a Van Gogh paint-by-numbers with only a black and white photo for reference. The outline is there, but you’re going to miss something.
I mean, if Martin can’t write one book in 9 years, will he (at age 70) live long enough to finish two more? I wouldn’t hold your breath Ironborn.
So where does that leave HBO, Weiss, Benioff and the legions of loyal fans? Well, you just watched it. A rushed and inconsistent hodgepodge of ideas that neither make sense nor offers any kind of satisfying closure worthy of the texts. Book or no book, Season 8 had to be delivered, albeit a year later than planned. The colors are ALL WRONG.
The Game of Thrones Ending
My wife Celeste didn’t read the books. That’s OK. Not ideal, but I was able to fill in the blanks early on in the series sufficiently enough that by season 6, she was reminding ME of things that had happened earlier in the saga.
The first thing she said when it was over was, “That was worse than Rocky V”. In the moment, I thought it was kind of a funny statement. After some thought (it’s now been roughly 14 hours since the end) I realize how spot on she was in her comparison.
For those that missed it (it’s ok, you really don’t wanna watch it), Rocky V found our hero Rocky Balboa back where he started in Philadelphia. After 10 years as Boxing Heavyweight Champion of the world, millions of dollars in prize money and endorsements, lavish mansions and Ferraris, the Balboas found themselves penniless and destitute.
It would seem that Adrian’s (Rocky’s wife) brother Pauly had inadvertently made some bad investments and lost ALL of the Balboa fortune.
Yesterday millionaires, today living in squalor in the Philly projects. Adrian even got her old job back at the Pet Store.
Yes, it’s ridiculous.
In our Game of Thrones finale, Jon Snow saves the world from a clearly disturbed and potentially mentally unstable and murderous tyrant. Jon Snow, A.K.A. Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, the Heavyweight Champion of Westeros….wait for it…
…Takes the black on the Wall (moves back to Philly) and gets his old job back in the Night’s Watch.
Like many Game of Thrones fans, I have some burning questions that need answered.
Why is there still a Night’s Watch?
Wasn’t the whole friggin’ wall mostly destroyed by the Night King?
Aren’t we finally at peace with the Wildlings?
Is there any threat to the North remaining?
Why didn’t Drogon try to kill Jon.
Why didn’t Grey Worm try to kill Jon.
No, no, NO.
Let’s back up a bit…
Everyone who had to die in the Game of Thrones Series Finale:
She had to die. I’m fine with that. As soon as she went crazy like dear old Dad (in the events immediately preceding the season 1 storyline), you knew she had to die… and you knew who had to kill her.
It had to be Jon Snow.
It really doesn’t matter how he did it. A more dramatic and cinematic approach would have had her at the steps of what remained of the Red Keep. The Mad Queen perhaps is giving her victory speech to the Unsullied (led by Grey Worm) and the Dothraki army. This was something that seemed evident from the episode 5 ending and episode 6 previews following the airing. (See picture above).
A Better Game of Thrones Ending
I really believe just about anyone could have written a better ending to this show. I’ve been challenged indirectly on my Facebook feed to do just that. Now, I didn’t say I could film a better ending.. I said I could write a better ending… and I just did. Honestly though, anyone who read the books could have written a better ending.
My ending goes something like this:
Pan to the steps of the Red Keep. Unsullied, Dothraki and what’s left of the crispy-fried citizens of King’s Landing gather in front of their Mad Queen, Daenerys Targaryen…..
Jon stabs Dany, mortally wounding her as the crowd looks on.
Grey Worm, loyal to his Queen, immediately moves to avenge her by attempting to kill Jon Snow.
A dramatic fight ensues with Jon overcoming and killing Grey Worm.
As Dany lies dying on the steps of the Red Keep, Drogon can be heard in the distance stirring.. becoming uneasy… he senses what has happened to his mother…
…the sounds move closer.
Dany’s dying words to her last remaining dragon as foreseen and perhaps misinterpreted by Melisandre (also her last word) and vision in the flames.
Drogon unleashes his dragon fire on Jon Snow.
Seconds pass over the crackling flames of Jon’s burning body as Tyrion, Sir Davos and others look on in bewilderment over what has just come to pass…
Jon emerges from the flames, naked, armor smoldering into a molten pile beside him…
He picks up his sword Longclaw and impales Drogon in the eye, right down to the wolf pommel.
Drogon dies, your rightful King revealed.
The last Unburnt. The last Targaryen. The Rightful King.
The Unsullied kneel along with what remains of the Dothraki. Their King revealed.
It’s what had to happen in the only way it truly could have happened.
This is the crux of the story that Game of Thrones fans yearned for. What happens beyond is far less important. I’d even say, I’m mostly content with what happens to the remaining characters. Although, I’d offer some slight divergences.
Of course Sansa Stark, a most qualified and proven leader, becomes the Queen in The North. Jon grants her the independence of Winterfell per her wishes and reluctantly accepts his position as King…..
After all, who better to be King than the one who neither seeks, nor wants it, yet has the bloodline (and wisdom) to inherit it rightfully. (Why wasn’t this discussed by Tyrion and all of the Lords of Westeros when they chose Bran (!?) as their King in the series ending?)
Arya is knighted by Brienne and becomes the leader of Jon’s new King’s Guard. after all, they were the closest of the Stark siblings from the beginning. Arya would stay near Jon.
Arya marries Robert Baratheon’s bastard and first love, Gendry.
Bran goes back to Winterfell with Sansa. Winterfell is the only place south of the wall that has those stupid trees he likes to stare at… a fitting end to arguably the least interesting and certainly most confusing character in the series. P.S. – Nobody cares.
Hand of the King indeed. For all of Tyrion’s shortcomings, he has proven loyal and wise. Any mistakes he made as hand to Daenerys were for the good of the realm. Jon needs Tyrion and thus he reluctantly accepts Jon’s offer to remain his Hand in the new 6 Kingdoms.
Whorehouses can be rebuilt, the finest red wines can be imported from Dorne.
Lord Vary’s – The Spider, The Master of Whisperers
He didn’t have to die, nor should he have. In my alternate ending to episode 5, Vary’s ravens made it to their intended destinations with the news and truth of the one and true King, Aegon (Jon) Targaryen.
By the time this news reaches the remaining houses, Jon has killed Dany and his ascension is complete.
Backed by newly appointed Grand Maester, Samwell Tarly, Bran’s visions and the physical documentation available at the Citadel, no one in the realm disputes Jon’s claim to the throne. Jon is unchallenged.
The remaining Lords of Westeros gather in Kings Landing for the crowning ceremony.
Varys would undoubtedly take his seat on the King’s Small Council advising a King he actually trusts and believes in for the first time in his storied career. For the Realm. Always… for the realm.
Brienne of Tarth
Brienne honors her original oath to Catelyn Stark and looks over and protects Sansa. She too would travel back to Winterfell where she would remain as the Queens Guard in perpetuity.
She would never love another…
After news of the war ending reaches Castle Black, Tormund and what remains of the Wildlngs travel south. Many settle peacefully in Winterfell and are welcomed by Sansa as friends and allies safe to face the Winter ahead...together.
Tormund joins his friend Jon in Kings Landing, eventually becoming Master at Arms.
Although Jon is a Targaryen by blood, in the years to come, the sigil that flies over a rebuilt and rejuvenated King’s Landing is not of a dragon, but the Wolf of House Stark.
Becoming a musician isn’t what it used to be. Thanks to the power of digital tools, practically anyone can create music, upload it, and start selling it. But this has created a problem: there were something like 80,000 new albums released last year, 99 percent of which will never get played on the radio, and even fewer of them will make it onto the playlist of the average person.
Musicians, like companies, have to stand out to make it in today’s marketplace. Legacy record labels aren’t going to provide the impetus any longer.
So what can you do as a budding musician to get your music noticed? Take a look at some of these ideas.
Start A YouTube Channel
YouTube is vital for today’s musicians looking to get their start. Justin Bieber got his start on the platform. So too did Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepson, as well as many others. What these pioneers realized was that they could bypass the traditional music industry and use YouTube to go straight to market. And what’s more, they could show people what they looked like in addition to what their music sounded like, instantly creating fan followings. It was an incredible innovation.
Promote Yourself On SoundCloud
SoundCloud is a popular music platform where listeners can find new and exciting sounds from artists that haven’t yet made it big. It’s just the sort of place where people who want to find something new will go to seek out new music. If you think you’ve got something that they will want to listen to, you can use SoundCloud promotion to get your music in front of them and start building a following.
These promotional facilities are essential to help avoid your content from becoming buried. The last thing you want is to go to the effort of making great music, only to find that it shows up at the bottom of search results.
People love music merchandise. And they love it even more when it’s covered in the branding of a particular artist. Merch helps to cement your music in the minds of your audience and, if conditions are right, create a cult following of loyal fans who will stick by you in times of plenty and times of hardship.
Sell Your Live Recordings
If you’re like most budding artists, you probably do a lot of traveling, playing to various audiences in the hope that you’ll drum up support and get people interested in your music. But unless you’re already selling “instant concert recordings,” you might be missing a trick.
Instant concert recordings are simply recordings of your concert available for sale immediately after the show. People who attend your concerts may want to relive the experience when they get home and may be willing to pay a lot of money for the privilege. Start selling concert recordings today and see what extra money you can bring in.
Of course, promoting your music is only a part of the story. You’ve got to love making it. If you don’t, this will become painfully obvious to your fans.
Start a Music Blog
Hey you’re reading mine right now… Creating a music blog that is regularly updated with great content is a great way to promote music in the 21st century. Making money blogging is a legit side hustle that any musician can do in their spare time.
You can promote and sell your music while keeping in touch with fans. Create an email list for newsletters and keeping people informed of your live calendar and upcoming events.
I want to start this article by saying, I’m just a big fan of Guitarist Bobby Koelble. He’s the type of Guitarist I want to be like “when I grow up”.
I like to think of myself as a busy musician. I’m writing, teaching and performing 4-6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. But… theres busy… and there’s Bobby Koelble busy.
I like to think I’m fairly versatile on the guitar. I’ve done my share of Rock, Metal, Funk, Acoustic.. even some solo Classical gigs over the years. But…There’s versatile.. and there’s Bobby Koelble versatile.
I first met Bobby I think around 2004 at The Social in downtown Orlando. His band Junkie Rush was performing a crazy mix of Funk, Latin, ska, punk.. I’m not sure what it was but I remember thinking, Wow.. that guy is really good.
About a year later I was working on music for a big Christmas show at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The musical director had supplied me with some music and backing tracks for the show that included some crazy fast, clean technical lines that I had about a week to learn before opening night.
Think Yngwie mixed with Trans Siberian Orchestra. I remember sitting in the studio asking.. who the hell played on this track? the playing was phenomenal. “Oh, that was Bobby Koelble”.
My second question was.. “Why are you hiring me for this gig? Just get THIS guy to do it”. Well.. hes too busy. Bobby Koelble is too busy.
Of course he is!
I’m kinda glad he was too busy because I ended up doing that gig for 11 years. (Thanks dude)
… and thats pretty much how my interactions would go with Bobby over the next 10-15 years.
Bobby Koelble is the type of guitarist we all strive to be like. Growing up a typical Rock/Metal player in Central Florida, he did the Berklee thing where he got into Jazz and Classical music.
In 1994 he joined Chuck Schuldiner in his legendary band ‘Death’ recording arguably their most sophisticated and (my favorite) album ‘Symbolic’ in 1995.
Over the years Bobby has played with just about everyone including legends like Sam Rivers and Dixie Dregs bassist Dave LaRue.
He currently teaches Jazz Studies at Rollins College and The University of Central Florida along with leading a slew of bands and side projects. Did I mention hes busy?
Whether its straight Jazz, solo Classical or full-on Metal Bobby Koelble is always delivering the goods and as a guitar player.. just a joy to watch.
A while back I tried to get Bobby in on my Guitar Practice Routine roundup interview.. of course he was too busy to make that deadline (ha), so I’m going to try again and this time see if I can get some lessons, advice and insight into what makes this monster musician tick… and of course give him his own well deserved article.
The Bobby Koelble Interview
Craig @ Lifein12Keys:
Man.. I think I’m busy playing 4-5 gigs a week with only 1 or 2 different groups. I watch all of your videos and follow all your stuff.. It seems like your playing 8 days a week in so many different acts… and you maintain a busy teaching schedule. How do you do it?
“Lots of coffee haha. I’m just thankful that people reach out to me and want me to come play with them. I try to return the favor. I try to keep a full calendar while people still want to hear me haha. But it ebbs and flows. Things slow down in the summertime, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, but I welcome that to an extent. It gives me time to recharge a bit and further pursue some more creative endeavors.”
It seems like you have a new Jazz or Fusion project for those Blue Bamboo Center For the Arts shows all the time. How much time and prep goes into each new show? What’s the preparation and process like for you?
“I like to try out conceptual things at the Bamboo, but I can’t always do so because of the magnitude of some of the ideas. There are some things that I’d like to try out, but you can’t really rock out too hard there. There’s a limit as to how loud an obnoxious you can be at that venue haha.”
“I’ve done some tribute shows (Pat Metheny, Billie Holiday etc.) which, aside from shedding the material, didn’t take a whole lot of extraneous preparation. But others have been more perplexing and time-consuming. The Miles Davis meets Jimi Hendrix show was particularly fun.”
“The most preparation by far went into my Los Hombres de Led Zeppelin show, a ten-piece Latin jazz band performing the music of, well, Led Zeppelin haha (that group will be performing two shows at the Blue Bamboo in Winter Park on Friday May 24). Those type of things I can’t pull off every month. But then again, sometimes it’s nice to just go play and not worry about so much logistical stuff.”
I always love your solo Classical videos. As someone who has studied Classical Guitar and knows how much work it takes to add new repertoire.. what’s your process for learning a new piece?
“Man, it’s honestly been a couple of years since I’ve added anything new to my classical repertoire. I always aspire to do so, but as you know, there’s a degree of available time and commitment if you want to do it right. I usually start out by attempting to read through the piece, just to get a broad idea of what I’m up against haha. Then, I try my best to just be patient and work on one phrase at at time.”
“Sometimes, that means just one measure or even less. Playing classical guitar is like a choreographed interaction between your two hands (and your mind and entire body, of course), and you have to work out these interactions to the point where you almost can’t mess them up.”
“I still do, though haha. I also try to spend time on the individual parts. I’ll sing the bass lines, play them independently from the upward stems, which I’ll also attempt to sing. I try to work out the technical difficulties first, then work on making it sound like an emotive human being is playing it.”
Craig: What are some of your favorite classical pieces whether in your current repertoire or not?
“Some of my favorites that I can actually play are Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega, Variations on a Theme of Mozart by Fernando Sor and some various things by Bach. (All of these scores available in the free members area, links below)
“As you know, these things take maintenance, and if I go too long without playing them it’s painfully obvious haha. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I don’t have anything by Barrios up and running in my repertoire. I consider him to be the finest composer for the classical guitar. I almost had La Catedral together, but it slipped through my fingers, literally haha.”
That’s funny.. I agree. I think Barrios is the greatest pure guitar composer ever. I’ve had La Catedral almost up to performance level several times before blowing it and getting busy with something else… ha. Heres an excerpt for readers of the main arpeggio sequence:
“Maybe this interview will make me get off my ass and learn it for real. All of his great masterpieces are among my favorites. Una Limsona por el Amor de Dios, Un Sueno en la Floresta…he wrote so much amazing music. When I see people perform his pieces, I always think, “Damn, that looks hard” haha. Some of it presents daunting challenges, especially from a left hand perspective.”
What got you into Jazz? Who was your “gateway drug”.. I know for me it was DiMeola, Coltrane and Miles.
“Well, for me it was Al Di Meola. I remember hearing “Mediterranean Sundance” on a mixtape and freaking out over it. For a while, I didn’t know who it was, but eventually found out it was Al and Paco. So I hunted down the Elegant Gypsy album, and it was the first time I had heard anything even close to jazz that I was aware of. I dove into his early discography pretty hard, and eventually found out that he went to this place called Berklee College of Music, which immediately sounded like a place that I needed to be.”
“When I got there, I still hadn’t consciously heard bebop or anything you would call “real jazz”. When I did, my initial reactions were, “This sounds old”. “Where’s the guitar?” haha. Obviously, I hadn’t heard Wes Montgomery or George Benson or anyone like that yet. But once you start to learn some of the language and understand the communication between the musicians, and then learn about the lives of these great men and women who made that music, you can develop a lifelong curiosity and almost a fanaticism with it. At least that’s what happened with me.”
I like to do a lot of lessons and things on the website. Would you mind giving me a crash course on how you approach ii, V, I’s?
“Well, you’re basically creating melody (or harmonized melody) over the three most prominent harmonic devices in a given key, or the “key of the moment” if the ii V I happens to be in a different key center than the general key that the tune is in.”
“You can approach it in different ways. A lot of the bebop guys, Charlie Parker for instance, would usually just play the V chord and resolve it gracefully into the I. The great pianist/educator Barry Harris has taught extensively on this process using certain 8-note “bebop” scales like the 6th diminished scale, dominant bebop scale and so on. ”
What is a ii, V, I progression?
If you’re new to basic harmony, a “ii, V, I” is probably exactly what you think it is. We can take any Major Scale or Key, in this case C Major and build chords on each scale tone:
C Major 7
D minor 7
Creating a chord progression using the 2nd, 5th and 1st chords respectively, gives you a “ii, V, I”. You can grab a Jazz fake book and find 2/5/1’s everywhere.
Before I even knew what a Bebop scale was.. I was doing it. Chances are you might be too. When approaching the V chord, we’re simply adding in a diatonic 7th to a Mixolydian scale.
Take a G Mixolydian scale (the 5th mode of C Major)
G A B C D E F G >> add in the Major 7th (F#)
G A B C D E F F# G >> Dominant Bebop Scale!
“Pat Martino uses something he calls Minor Conversion, by which he uses the ii chord, and the associated Dorian mode, to navigate the entire progression. Both approaches work, because they generally incorporate a lot of the same notes/chord tones, but I find that they yield different sonic results.”
ii chord minor conversion in C Major
C Major 7
D minor 7 – Dorian mode – (DEFGABCD)
“Transcribing is very important in this process, because a lot of the melodic information that the great players use incorporates all twelve notes of the chromatic scale, not just the seven or eight you find in more conventional scales. It really is a language that you learn to speak by imitating it, just like you imitated your parents when you learned to speak verbally.”
“When you analyze the solos of these great players, it essentially comes down to playing strong notes on strong beats. In other words, emphasizing the notes in the chord of the moment (specifically the 3rd and 7th) on the strongest beats of the measure, which harmonically speaking are beats one and three.”
“You can get to and from these chord tones in a variety of interesting ways, which the great improvisers have provided a vast variety of examples to choose from.”
My acoustic duo does a few Jazz tunes. What are some ideas I can integrate into my improvisations (outside of the basic key center) to make my caveman rock licks sound a bit more jazzy?
(Using Dm9, G13 to CMaj9 as an example?)
“It all starts with the good ol’ tritone substitution, where you substitute the V chord with the dominant seventh chord a tritone away (in this case, Db7). You could then attach the “related ii” to that chord (the ii chord that you would normally associate it with), which would give you Abm7 to Db7. In other words, your substituting the original ii V with the one that’s a tritone away, taking care to still resolve smoothly to the original I chord.”
“It may sound weird at first, but as long as you keep the line moving and resolve it, it should still work. The end justifies the means, so to speak haha.”
One of the most common moves in Jazz, it sounds confusing but really isn’t when we break it down.
Don’t confuse a “Tritone” with a 3rd or Diatonic 3rd. We’re actually moving up 3 complete whole tones from the root of our dominant 7 chord. In this case using G7 (G13) as our example.
G – Root
A – 1 Whole Tone away.
B – 2nd Whole Tone away.
Db – Tritone
The Tritone Substitution in this case would be Db7 for the original G7.
As Bobby said “attaching the related ii chord” – Ab minor 7.
This could be Ab dorian, Abm7 arpeggios etc., al.
How does Bobby get Abm7 as the related ii chord?
Tritone Substitution: Db7 for G7. Remember Db is 3 whole tones higher than G.
Db7 is the V chord in the key of Gb
The ii chord in Gb is Abm7
“One of the most general and useful is the “minor 3rd” substitution, whereas you would play the ii and V up a minor 3rd from the original key (in this case, you would play F-7 to Bb7) and then resolve to Cmaj9 as planned. Again, if you keep the line moving and resolve it properly, you should come out unscathed.”
“Another cool trick involving pentatonics is to play A- pentatonic over ii, then move up in half steps over the V and I (Bb- pentatonic over G7 and B- pentatonic over Cmaj7). I’ve heard this attributed to David Baker, the great educator who taught at the University of Indiana for many years. I find it works better if you play the pentatonic scales a little more intervalically, as opposed to just playing your favorite blues licks haha.”
So, I’m 48 and I think you just turned 50? I don’t know about you, but literally everything hurts these days! What are some things you do in your daily practice routine to keep your chops (and hands) in shape? Do you do a technical guitar routine or is it mostly working on new music?
“Yeah, I hit the big 5-0 last year. I don’t really feel it until I look in the mirror haha. I don’t have any type of set practice regimen, but I do try to do make sure that I do fundamental things on a regular basis. A lot of that concerns doing certain things with scales: intervallic patterns, triads and 7th chord arpeggios that move both vertically and horizontally on the fretboard using the scales that I most often use.”
“This usually means major, melodic minor, harmonic minor, harmonic major and all of their associated modes, plus diminished, whole tone, augmented, and various pentatonic scales as well. Some days I’ll pick one key to work in, other days I’ll attempt to run the circle of 5ths. ”
“I also have some things I work with on the classical guitar that deal with the left and right hands individually, as well as both hands together, and also tremolo. I don’t always get to all of that every single day, but I like to keep it all in my general periphery.”
We always have gigs on the same days,, so of course i miss everything unless its on the internet.. Tell me about The Absinthe Trio. All of the videos I’ve seen are just fantastic.
“Thanks a lot, man. The Absinthe Trio started at the beginning of 2008. My wife Wendy started managing a venue in downtown Orlando called the Absinthe Bar and Bistro, so I put together a trio to play there every Wednesday, and we eventually became known as the Absinthe Trio. ”
Bobby Koelble w/The UCF Jazz Professors - Mr. PC - YouTube
“After the venue closed, we went on to do weekly shows around Orlando for several years, and still perform on occasion (our next show is at the Orlando Fringe festival on Saturday May 25). In the beginning, we also featured a female vocalist (our drummer Rion Smith’s wife Yuki), but that ended once she gave birth to their son.”
“So these days, the group is essentially a combination of original compositions, classic jazz/fusion standards, and classic rock covers played our way and sung by me. We’ve always incorporated elements of electronic music, using loops and samples as well as my Roland guitar synth, and I’ve recently forayed into the realm of Ableton Live, which we’ve begun to work into our live shows. It’s amazing software and great fun to work with, and I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what it’s capable of.”
How has becoming a father impacted your music lifestyle… I mean it doesn’t seem like you’ve missed a beat! I have 4 chihuahuas.. I cant imagine a little human running around too!
“Haha we actually had four dogs at the time our daughter was born, but we eventually lost all of them to old age. But yes, it has absolutely impacted my musical lifestyle. There is definitely a shift in priorities to say the least. Whereas in the past, I would spend most of my spare time with a guitar in my hand, a lot of that time these days is spent with my daughter. ”
“I’m not begrudging that fact, though. I waited till I was 43 to have a child, so I definitely had plenty of time to be selfish and do my own thing. I just want to make sure that I spend the time and be a good dad and help to raise a quality human that will have a positive impact on the world. But I still sneak off to practice at every given opportunity haha. That usually means at night after she’s gone to sleep.”
What was the Death To All tour like for you? How did it feel getting back into that music again after all these years?
“Those tours were fantastic. Gene, Steve and Max are some of my favorite people on the planet, and it was great to perform that material again that means so much to so many people, including ourselves of course. Hopefully we’ll do it again at some point, if not as extensively as we’ve done so in the past.”
“I never completely lost touch with heavy metal after Death initially disbanded. I just got involved in so many other things that it was substantially on the back burner for many years. I don’t think a love for heavy metal ever leaves you, especially if it was a vital part of your formative years, which I’m sure it was for you as well. But my involvement in the metal scene definitely flared up again after the DTA tours started.”
“I’ve since done several guest solos for various bands, and I’m currently tracking guitars for Gone In April’s new album, which should be out in the fall. I also have a long-distance metal project called Lie Of Eris, involving two of my friends from Quebec City as well as Chuck “Mandaddy” Ellis from Gargamel! on vocals. We recorded an album in our spare time over the course of five years, and it’s finally going to see the light of day, hopefully this summer.”
Anything else you’d like to promote.. gig calendar, website etc..
“I currently don’t have my own website, but I can be found and followed/subscribed to on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. I perform the first Wednesday of every month (except June) at the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts in Winter Park FL. I also perform a monthly jazz guitar duet at the Bamboo with it’s owner, Chris Cortez. Aside from that, here’s what I have coming up in the immediate future:”
Friday May 17 w/Dave LaRue @ Shovelhead (Longwood FL) Friday May 24 w/Los Hombres de Led Zeppelin @ Blue Bamboo Center For the Arts (Winter Park FL) Saturday May 25 w/The Absinthe Trio @ Orlando Fringe Festival Saturday June 5 w/Scott Dickinson (trumpet) @ Pilar’s (Winter Garden, FL) Wednesday June 5 w/Chris Cortez @ Blue Bamboo Wednesday June 12 w/Scott Dickinson @ Blue Bamboo
Bobby Koelble's Guitah In The Dahk - The Entertainer - YouTube
Alternate picking for guitarists may seem like something we all take for granted. Most guitarists, even complete beginners alternate some down and up strokes whether they are consciously doing it or not.
As we develop our picking hand, alternate picking can open a whole new world of techniques and music not obtainable otherwise. Even if you’re familiar with alternate picking, it can often be helpful to go back and work on the basics.
Sometimes I find myself in a rut, or maybe too many gigs in any given month has let my picking hand get a little lazy. It’s times like these when I like to take a few hours and slowly get back to the basics and really tighten it all up.
When my picking is really happening.. everything just feels better. My solo improvisations are clear and articulate, my rhythms are effortless and I’m able to do more on the guitar with less effort. Whether I’m playing Thrash Metal, Funk or a Latin acoustic tune, everything sounds better when my alternate picking is developed to a high level… but it requires some maintenance.
I’d also make the argument that alternate picking just sounds better than other techniques. You may be able to develop more speed with economy picking, sweeping, hybrid etc.. but that staccato percussiveness of alternate picking is music to my ears when done well. I’d also argue that it’s just more practical for more kinds of guitar music.
Whether you’re a beginner or advanced guitarist I hope you’ll find these alternate picking tips and exercises helpful. Take it slow and use a metronome! Lets get to it!
Alternate Picking 101
Let’s start on an open string. If you’re a complete beginner, all we’re doing here is alternating down and up picking strokes. At first you may feel more comfortable locking up the wrist and picking more from the arm… that’s OK.
Alternatively, try anchoring the forearm on the bridge of the guitar and just pivoting your wrist. Theres no right or wrong, both methods can produce excellent picking results.
I’ve seen other guitar teachers make the statement that picking from the arm is incorrect. Look, it’s all about the sound. Nobody listening to you cares about your picking technique. Do what works for you! If it sounds good and is comfortable, work with it. Just be consistent.
When we talk about the problems of alternate picking, particularly, string crossing, we need to address inside and outside picking.
Think of two adjacent strings as walls in a corridor. If we stay inside those walls, bouncing inside back and forth, that’s inside picking. Using the example below, an upstroke on the open B string and a downstroke on the open E string.
When outside picking, we start on a downstroke, travel past the top string and return on an upstroke, then travel past the lower string and return on a downstroke. The fundamental technical problem with alternate picking is this extra travel. Both inside and outside picking have this extra wasted movement.
You have to move past a string one way or the other before returning. As we cross more than 2 strings this can be increasingly difficult. It’s worth the effort though as your improvisations, rhythms and chordal picking will become richer as your picking hand develops.
In this example you can see how inside and outside picking work. Give it a try paying close attention to how your picking hand moves across the strings. Make sure your downstrokes and upstrokes sound the same. A weak upstroke takes time to improve, but you’ll get there.
Alternate Picking On 3 Strings
As we move on to 3 string triplets, we have an entirely new set of problems. Any odd grouping of notes will reverse the pick stroke on the repeat. Notice the first triplet starts on a downstroke, then an upstroke when alternate picking.
The second pair, we can switch it up by doing 2 downstrokes and an up. This gives the picking hand a consistent downstroke starting point for each triplet.
We can then reverse it to 2 upstrokes in the last pair.
Technically speaking, doing 2 of the same stroke in a row is not alternate picking, however, it is still a useful guitar picking exercise and will help to further develop the picking hand.
Alternate Picking On 4 Strings
Moving on to 4 strings using an open position D Major chord, we’re back to even strokes: DOWN, UP, DOWN, UP. Once you’re comfortable with that, try it in reverse starting on an upstroke.
If we alternate pick through the D chord ascending and descending, it looks like this:
Alternate Picking Over 5 Strings
Moving on to 5 string chords using Am in this example. To me, 5 strings always seems a bit awkward, particularly the downstroke on the high E string. Work slow and make sure each note rings out clearly.
Lets grab an open position E Major chord for a nice 6 string workout. Start with just alternating through the notes then in the last 2 notes of the first bar we’ll change it up to a cool string skipping exercise that emphasizes the outside picking issue.
Alternate picking Scale Sequences
If your goal is to eventually get into lead and solo guitar playing and improvising, you’ll definitely want to develop your alternate picking in scale sequences. There are a few problems to address when attempting alternate picking in scales.
How many notes per string?
Do the number of notes change from string to string?
Inside and outside picking that changes in string pairs.
Lets take a look at 2 notes per string in the example below, then mix in 2 and 3 notes per string without stopping.
Feels weird right? Throwing in an odd number of notes will completely throw off the picking hand. Work at it slow and try to keep a steady 16th note feel throughout.
Now lets do 3 notes per string and adding 4 notes chromatically on the high E.
Whenever I find myself falling into full shred mode, it can be useful to get away from 3 note per string scales and work on scales that have odd numbers of notes per string to get my alternate picking back into some balance.
If you’re looking for some scales with odd and even numbers of notes to practice try some of these:
When alternate picking 3 note per string scale shapes you’ll encounter inside and outside picking in every other pair of adjacent strings. Lets exploit the outside picking and get used to that upstroke when crossing strings.
Notice in bar 2 I’m doubling up the outside string crossing upstroke. This was an exercise made famous by guitar virtuoso and G.I.T. instructor Paul Gilbert in his 1988 video Intense Rock Guitar. If you only work on one alternate picking exercise, make it this is the one!
Once you’re comfortable with example 1, try adding this extended sequence and working it into a loop. Try it with a metronome and build it up slowly.
In example 2 I’m just tweaking the sequence a bit to cover the complete turnaround both ascending and descending. Once you’re comfortable with them both, wrap them together into one continuous sequence of notes.
You can also hear this exact lick all over early Al DiMeola albums dating back to the early 1970’s. Al and Paul perfected it and its hard to argue with 2 pioneers of alternate picking technique.
Here’s an excerpt of Paul Gilbert doing this same lick (in E minor instead of A).
Paul Gilbert Intense Rock 1 FULL Lesson - YouTube
Alternate Picking through a Scale Over 6 Strings
Take this G Major (Ionian) shape and play through it with alternate picking. Pay close attention to where your upstrokes are when crossing strings. The green notes in the graphic below indicate the G Ionian shape, while the black highlights the next diatonic mode, A Dorian.
Notice the picking stroke changes every time you switch strings.
In example 2, I’ve pulled out all of the picking symbols except the strokes where a string crossing is required. Give it a try.
I like this last sequence because it focuses on a winding ascension over 4 strings, turns around in the middle and then repeats on the top 4 strings. It takes some of the sting out of moving fluidly over all 6 strings. It also just sounds a little more musical.
Put your metronome on a slow speed and give this one a try until it feels smooth and comfortable.
Now lets take the next mode in G Major, A Dorian, and map it out using the “Up & Back” sequence we did above. If you’re fairly comfortable with doing this on 2 strings, you should be ready to try it through the whole 6 string scale shape.
This is quite a workout and at first can be a bit overwhelming. Once you’ve got it mastered at a slow tempo, bump up that metronome and try it in all 7 modal scales shapes.
I tabbed out this last sequence for an email reader named George. He had purchased my book, The 7 Day Practice Routine For Guitarists and wanted the “Modal Workout” mapped out in Dorian. Special thanks to George for inspiring this weeks lesson.
If you’d like all of these sequences in high quality .PDF Format suitable for printing, along with the Guitar Pro Audio/Music, you can find them in May’s free download section by jumping on the email list. Unsubscribe at anytime.
When you have a passion for something, it consumes you. A passion is more than just an interest. You may like tennis and you may enjoy eating cake, but if you HAVE to partake in music or anything else – if you cannot imagine your life without it and you’d love to dedicate all the time you have to it, then you have a passion!
But, just because you have a passion, it doesn’t mean that you’re giving it your all. Or, dedicating as much time and effort as you’d like to it. Maybe you’re busy with work or life or your family? Maybe you would love to squeeze in more time to play music – or whatever else it is that you love. Let’s take a look.
Telling People About Your Passion
First of all, when you’re interested in something, you may find that it consumes you. If you are so interested in music or you want to spend your life around music, then you may find that you just want to shout it from the rooftops. You may want to connect with others that are interested in music, that play it or perform too – so network, talk to people, and socialize with others that have the same passion as you do.
The next thing that you could look to do here, is to attend events that coincide with your hobby. Do you want to be able to spend a lot of your time pursuing your interests in the evenings or weekends? Maybe you can go to shows or gigs, or attend open mics or different groups? Think about the different musical events that you can attend or aim to perform at, so that you can feel more fulfilled by your passion.
Writing About It
Maybe you want to think about writing about music? Do you love to write too? Maybe you want to think about writing a blog or a couple of articles? Sometimes, you can connect with music in other ways than just playing it!
Enjoying Your Hobbies
The next thing that you can also do is make sure that you’re pursuing your interests as a hobby. This should be the bottom line of what you’re doing. And if you have no idea what kind of hobbies you would love to pursue, then strip everything back and get back to basics. Work out what you love, look for classes or courses that you can join, and just look to invest as much time as you can into your hobbies.
Building A Career
Finally, you may also want to consider building a career out of your creative passions too. Because if you are really interested in something enough, and you find it enjoyable, why not make some money out of it? Do you want to play gigs or even become a music teacher? Maybe you want to follow another kind of passion in a career? No matter what it is, just consider whether you can make a career out of it.
I love lists! There are so many ‘greatest guitarist’ and ‘greatest guitar album’ lists out there, why should you care about mine? The biggest fault I see is in the lack of diversity found in most. When making a greatest guitar music album list, I think it’s essential to cross into different genres of music and cover as many techniques as possible. ….and why does the music all have to be from the 20th century and after?
I also thought it would be cool and different to include some actual guitar music examples that go with each album on the list. Hey, I’ve never seen that done before.
This guitar album list isn’t in any particular order. You may also be wondering why some of your favorites didn’t make the list. I took the liberty of eliminating some landmark recordings that may either be outdated or done better by a modern guitarist. Don’t get mad… allow me to explain…
For example, I didn’t include Jimi Hendrix or Andres Segovia as I felt Stevie Ray Vaughn and John Williams have represented those respective styles better and with a higher degree of musicianship, better representation of a specific guitar style and of course modern sound quality. Should you avoid the latter two? Of course not.. but I had to draw the line somewhere. At nearly 2300 words.. I think 10 was the magic number.
Regardless, I hope you like this list and it’s accompanying musical examples. Enjoy!
Live – Friday Night in San Francisco
Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco De Lucia
I said earlier that these were in no particular order.. but.. to be honest, this is my #1 favorite Guitar Album of all time by far, hands down, no contest.
Theres so much happening on this record. First off, it’s live and in 1980, live actually meant something before computers and the fancy editing that sucks the life out of so many live records today.
Secondly, it’s ALL guitar. Just 3 guys playing guitar, that’s it.
Each one of these guys could warrant an album on this list of their own. The 3 of them playing together, it’s a no-brainer. All the tracks were recorded live at The Warfield Theatre on December 5th, 1980, in San Francisco, CA. ”Guardian Angel” was recorded in White Plains, New York sometime later.
Theres a ton of guitar techniques flying around on this one. No drums, vocals, bass or any other instrumentation, just 3 outstanding guitarists going for it on every track.
Paco De Lucia, arguably the most influential and greatest Flamenco Guitarist of all time, stays true to his Spanish roots employing Flamenco and Picado finger-picking techniques. He has said in interviews that he had a hard time keeping up with the other two guitarists, who were much more familiar with improvisation and Jazz harmony. You’d never know it by listening to him on this one!
John McLaughlin uses a pick, but on a nylon string guitar. A Jazz giant and Miles Davis alum, McLaughlin’s lines sear and soar especially on the McLaughlin/Di Meola duet “Short Tales From The Black Forest” and his original composition, “Guardian Angel”.
Al Di Meola shines throughout, especially on his own contributions, Mediterranean Sundance and Fantasia Suite, the latter of which features all 3 guitarists. Di Meola’s picking technique on his steel-string Ovation guitar could warrant a lesson on it’s own.
Nearly 40 years later the improvisational interplay and beautiful, complex arrangements make this a must-have for any guitarist.
Here is the intro to Mediterranean Sundance, the first track on Friday Night In San Francisco. It’s a great syncopated Flamenco style lick you can play with a pick. Easy to learn, difficult to master.
Van Halen – Van Halen
This is the album that made me want to pick up a guitar. That alone doesn’t mean it deserves a spot on this list. The fact that it also inspired millions of other kids to do the same does!
I wasn’t surprised when I sent out an email to my readers last week that this got so many votes.
From the opening car-horn and bass blast of “Runnin’ with the devil” to the bombastic metal closer, On Fire, and everything in-between it might be the perfect Rock Guitar record.
“Eruption” literally redefined rock guitar playing overnight. In under 2 minutes, Eddie Van Halen’s instrumental masterpiece re-wrote the book on guitar technique. 41 years later, guitarists are still trying to nail down his modded Marshall “brown” sound.
Van Halen paved the way for an entire 80’s Metal and Rock Movement that also spawned a new generation of better, stronger, faster guitarists that continues to this day.
Heres the first half of Eruption for a taste of Eddie’s fiery, pentatonic genius.
Megadeth – Rust In Peace
Check out any list of Greatest Metal Albums of all-time and you’re bound to find Rust In Peace in there somewhere. In 1989 after losing 2 different lead guitarists over 3 albums, Dave Mustaine made his best career and creative choice ever when he hired Marty Friedman.
Marty emerged from the Post Van Halen and Neo-Classical “Shred” movement of the early 1980’s to record some of the most beautiful solos ever on Rust in Peace.
Every solo is a song within a song and expertly crafted from beginning to end. With the feel and phrasing of the worlds best blues players combined with stellar technique and an exotic scale and theory sense, Marty’s playing transcends the genre and set the tone for melodic metal guitarists that followed in the 1990’s and beyond.
There are so many cool solos on this record. why not share them all? Get on my email list to get the entire Rust in Peace album in Guitar Pro format. This version includes all of the guitars and bass parts along with a drum track.
Want a high quality .PDF of this lesson including audio and Guitar Pro Files? Jump on the email list to access this free lesson, all of the music here and get access to the Free Guitar Printables Area.
Manuel Barrueco – 300 Years of Guitar Masterpieces
Whenever I’ve tried to make any type of best guitar albums list, I have to include this one. It just covers so much material! Originally released as a 3 CD set, on 300 years of Guitar Masterpieces, Manuel Barrueco shows why he is one of the greatest Classical Guitarists of all time.
From Scarlatti to Bach to 19th century Spanish composers like Tarrega, Barrueco delivers on every piece. It also includes all 12 Villa-Lobos etudes which are a staple in the Classical Guitar repertoire.
This is a great introduction to classical guitar music for those who may not have gotten into it yet. If you already love this music like I do, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete and high quality guitar collection.
There are so many great pieces to check out on this one. I chose a lesser known “Rossiniana No.1, Opus 119 by Mauro Guiliani. A beautiful and challenging piece. Click the image below for a free 19th century edition in PDF format.
Jason Becker – Perpetual Burn
A while back I wrote an entire article about why I love Jason Becker and why this album is so great. I recently purchased the 30th anniversary remastered edition on vinyl and let me tell you… it still holds up and better than ever!
After Jason’s ALS diagnosis in 1991, we have such precious few recordings of this amazing guitarist. Perpetual Burn lives on as his most important and cohesive work. From Thrash Metal to Baroque counterpoint to almost Frank Zappa-esque compositions, Becker dropped something really special here.
Marty Friedman, Becker’s Cacophony bandmate, future Megadeth guitarist and best friend guest solos on a few songs as well. The real standout piece is “Air”. After 30 years, Air stands as arguably the best example of Neo-classical guitar music ever recorded. This is real classical composition here. The Counterpoint, moving bass and complex harmony remain the gold standard for 80’s shred and Neo-classical guitar music.
Perhaps the most mind-blowing fact is that he did the whole record in under 14 days and was 17 years old at the time!
Here’s an excerpt from Air. Join the to get the full score in Guitar Pro format.
Stevie Ray Vaughn – Texas Flood
Another favorite pick among my email list readers! What Eddie Van Halen did for Rock guitar Stevie Ray Vaughn did for the Blues. Influenced greatly by Jimi Hendrix and Freddie King, Stevie picks up where the previous Blues giants left off with a higher level of technique and a command of the instrument never before seen in the Blues genre.
A perfect record beginning to end, Texas Flood offers a bit of traditional Blues and Rock along with the guitarist’s soulful, smoky voice and out of this world guitar playing.
Released in 1983 in the midst of the New Wave and burgeoning MTV movement, it’s fair to say nobody saw this one coming. Texas Flood is an album that ages well and still sounds fresh in 2019. With the overload of of youtube child-prodigy and self-proclaimed blues masters like Joe Bonomassa and John Mayer… it’s nice to get a reality check and listen to the real deal. This is, the real deal.
Heres an excerpt from “Lenny” from Texas Flood.
Pat Martino – Consciousness Live
Somewhere I hope someone is reading this and thinking.. “ok how about some Jazz records?”
When it comes to the Jazz genre, it’s really hard to pick a best guitar album. I chose Pat Martino because I feel he most closely embodies what is great about both Jazz and the guitar as an improvisational instrument in a Jazz context.
Coming out of Philadelphia in the 1960’s post bebop scene, Martino employs a standard pick style technique that modern guitarists can relate to. His improvisational lines closely resemble the great horn players that came before him such as John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly, yet with a distinctly guitar approach.
With this album you get the best of his studio recordings as well as a blistering live performance from 1973. I originally had a version called “Head and Heart: Consciousness Live” but you can find both versions on iTunes or your favorite streaming service.
I’ve always loved the way Pat Martino plays arpeggios. Heres an example of a Pat Martino style lick over a Cm7 chord. This is probably one of my favorite licks and one I use all of the time in my acoustic duo and trio gigs.
John Williams – From The Jungles of Paraguay
Paraguayan born Augustin Barrios may have been the 20th century’s greatest pure guitar music composer, but you’ve probably never heard of him until now.
John Williams 1995 recording of most of Barrios’ great works stands as one of the most brilliantly produced and performed classical guitar collections ever. If you buy only one classical guitar record in your lifetime, make it this one. It’s that good.
The sound quality on this recording is a marvel. Just the perfect hint of natural reverb and flawless execution make this a must have for any guitarist. If you search this one in iTunes it has also been re-branded as “The Great Paraguayan”. Check it out!
I’ve included my favorite piece, all 3 movements of “La Catedral” in high quality PDF Format. Below is an excerpt from the 3rd movement, Allegro Solemne.
This arpeggio sequence in B minor is an outstanding right-hand exercise but presents challenges for both hands.
Tilman Hoppstock – J.S. Bach Works For Guitar
J.S. Bach is my absolute favorite composer. I’m kind of surprised that no-one has ever tried to record all of his great Lute works before Tillman Hoppstock’s amazing 2014 recording.
This double album has it all. All of the Lute suites, the famous Chaconne from Violin Partita #2 and some other great and lesser known Bach works.
Also a classical Cellist, Hoppstock’s guitar playing and tone throughout this recording are hard to beat. In the past few years this has been my go-to record for Bach guitar recordings.
I’ve included a 67 Page PDF book of The Chaconne in D minor from Bach’s villain partita #2 in D minor, my all-time favorite piece of music! You can download it in the members area.
Jump on the email list to access to the complete scores of all of the music here including the Free Guitar Printables Area.
Django Reinhardt – Anthology
Pre-dating modern Jazz and Bebop, Belgian born Gypsy Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt was a true innovator and pioneer of modern guitar picking technique
One night in 1928, Reinhardt was going to bed in the gypsy caravan wagon that he and his wife shared. Django reportedly knocked over a candle, which ignited some flammable celluloid resulting in his 3rd and 4th left hand fingers being essentially burned together.
You’d never know it by listening to him, he essentially had to re-learn the guitar using only his first 2 fingers for solos and the remaining 2 damaged fingers for some chord forms.
He spent most of the early 1940’s running from Nazi’s in occupied France but some how managed to make some of the greatest guitar recordings ever in his short life.
You can’t go wrong with any of the existing Django recordings out there. Any anthology or compilation available.. just get it. You’ll be glad you did.
Here is a look at how Django approached his improv ideas over some m7 and dom7 chords.
Well there it is.. my list of the 10 Greatest Guitar Albums ever! I’m sure to get a lot of feedback from this one. Whether you agree or disagree, drop your comment below. I’d love to argue with you a little and better yet… check out some of your favorites that I may have overlooked.
Music is a huge part of life for most of us. We get up in the morning and we play the radio on the way to work. We pop in our headphones and listen to our workout playlist at the gym, while we’re cleaning the house, in the shower. It can give us a boost and make us feel good, evoke memories and motivate us when we need it to.
You know you love listening to music, but have you ever considered making any of your own? Learning how to play guitar or any instrument is not only fun but can benefit your life in a number of ways. Here are just a few reasons why.
Playing Music Keeps you Productive
One of the main benefits to having any hobby is that it keeps you productive. When you’re not at work, it’s easy to waste your time binge watching Netflix or moping about the house which isn’t going to add any value to your life. Learning to play an instrument gives you something to do, something to look forward to doing in your free time. It’s gets you up off the sofa and doing something meaningful.
Music Improves Mental Health
Learning to play an instrument benefits your mental health in many ways. It helps to keep the mind sharp, it gives you a sense of achievement each time you’re perfecting a song or a skill and it reduces stress. These are proven scientific benefits for your mental and cognitive health that playing an instrument brings, and so if you’re in a bit of a slump and want to make positive changes to your life for the better then this is definitely something to consider.
Sometimes, just the act of doing something different, getting up off the couch during your free time and trying something new is enough to spur on other positive changes in your life. It’s no secret that most of us are at our happiest when we’re being creative and learning new things.
Music Helps you to Express Yourself
Speaking of creativity, music is most definitely a creative hobby. Once you’ve mastered the basics and perfected some songs you can begin making your own music and there, the fun can really start. While it does take time and practice to initially get to know your instrument, how it works and the best way to play it, it’s something that most people will pick up. According to Piano in 21 Days, it can take as little as this to get you playing.
There are guides you can follow along to on Youtube, or you could book a local music class. Making music enables you to express yourself creatively, something that many of us are limited in doing in our regular working lives. There are so many different instruments to choose from,
Playing a Musical Instrument Builds Confidence
Having confidence is so important in life. Without it, you can be held back by doubt and insecurity, but it’s difficult to have confidence in yourself and your abilities when you’re stuck in a rut and it feels like you do the same things day in, day out. Taking up a hobby like music and perfecting your skills can show to you that you’re smart and worthy.
Music can give you confidence in your ability to pick things up, and see learning something new through. Performing your music and getting a positive reaction can also spur you on and make you feel good.
I came across Flamenco and Classical Guitarist, Berto Boyd, on Facebook a while back through our mutual friend and guitarist, Ben Woods. I admire anyone who (like me) is able to make a living playing guitar at any level. I’m also just a huge fan and admirer of Flamenco guitar in general and it’s not something I’ve covered yet here on Life In 12 Keys.
Berto has a passion, depth and sophistication in his playing and musicianship that is a rare and beautiful thing that we can all learn from as guitarists. Astounding technique and a real connection to both Classical and Flamenco repertoire. His original compositions also set him apart in my mind. Berto Boyd is a real gift to guitar fans everywhere.
…He also skateboards. Yeah, it was a bit of a factor when I was looking for my first Flamenco guitarist interview and lesson. As a 40-something guitarist and skater myself, I thought it was pretty cool that a musician of this caliber also skates.. and at our age!
I also thought it would make for a fun interview and something we could possibly have in common besides our mutual love of the guitar and Paco De Lucia…
Let’s get to it!
Interview With Guitarist Berto Boyd
Craig @ LifeIn12Keys.com:
Hi Berto and thanks for doing this! I’m absolutely thrilled to have you and appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and my readers.
Berto: “My pleasure man, let’s do this!!”
So, when I was about 19, I was studying with a Berklee guy in Akron, Ohio who turned me on to the guitar trio albums with Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and the great Flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia. As a young rock and metal guy, I had never heard anything like it. It’s something that has stuck with me in the years since and has shaped my playing greatly.
What is it about Flamenco guitar that drew you in? Most guitarist (at least here in the U.S) don’t start with Flamenco. Tell me about your early influences and how you got into it?
I’m originally from SoCal and grew up surrounded by music, art, surfing, and skateboarding. However, during 85’-89’ I lived on Dog River in Mobile, AL of all places. My Dad was chill enough to build us a half-pipe in the backyard which always attracted an alternative crowd that led to an abundance of counter-culture for the area at the time.
We would blast our boom box during the skate sessions and someone always had a tape they wanted to pop in to get hyped on. We listened to a lot of Beastie Boys, Sex Pistols and Circle Jerks and when my sister’s heshen boyfriend and friends came over they insisted we listen to metal.
I remember one of the tapes my sis’s boyfriend loaned me was Sepultura’s “Schizophrenia”. There was a track on that tape (The Abyss) I would always rewind and want to listen over and over. Little did I know this track was actually based off of a traditional Flamenco form called “Taranta”, a rhythmically free form piece in the key of F# altered Phrygian. This was the coolest thing I had ever heard and my ears were very drawn towards the evocative sounds.
My ear over the next few years was always pulled to whatever melodic finger-style stuff I could find. Mobile was’t exactly a place I would stumble across someone playing Classical or Flamenco so it would be a few more years till I discovered “the sound” I was looking for.
I learned by ear and through tabs a lot of quasi-Classical Metallica stuff like: Anesthesia, Call of Ktulu, Fade to Black, To Live is to Die etc., al.
Fast forward to the early 90’s I was living in Ventura, CA and my Mom and I would order CD’s from the Columbia House Collection until we finally stumbled across John Williams. Once I finally knew what Classical Spanish guitar was, we investigated and tracked down CDs by Segovia, Julian Bream etc.
So around the same time I was listening to Classical guitar albums and picking stuff out by ear, my fate had finally arrived. As I was walking through Ventura College one day I stumbled upon a classy gentleman named Carlos Gonzales. He was playing Heitor Villa-Lobos and it stopped me dead in my tracks.
It turned out, he was the guitar instructor there and classes had just started that week. I had a million questions for him which he gladly answered. He told me I had to take 18 units to get the private lessons, so I ran home to tell my Mom the news. That afternoon I knew what my mission was in life. To become a Classical guitarist. Luckily when I came home my Mom was super supportive and all in.
Berto with the late Paco De Lucia
During the time I studied Classical guitar, Theory, and Composition at Ventura College I started listening to a bit of more pop Flamenco stuff like the Gipsy Kings, Ottmar Liebert etc.. I hung with a crew of hippy dudes that played a lot of hand drums so I started to develop my own version of Flamenco and Bossa Nova style just through jamming.
After 2 years of studying Classical, my teacher Carlos set up my first proper recital at a church. The following week after the recital I kinda got chewed out by him because of all the “additions” I made to these Classical pieces. I created a few intros and changed a few things to my liking which apparently was a no go for him.
He told me “Classical musicians are limited to interpretation” and if I wanted to improvise like that then I should go play Flamenco. He gave me Pepe Romero’s “Flamenco!” CD which I instantly went home and started picking things up by ear.
A few weeks later my mom took me to see a Flamenco troupe from Spain and once again my fate had been sealed. Once I experienced the spine-tingling duende, I knew exactly what the next step was… to now become a Flamenco guitarist and officially cross over to the dark side! For the next few years I studied with several Flamenco teachers from Santa Barbara to L.A. and finally went to Spain to study with Gerardo Nunez in 199. Gerardo in beast mode video!
I returned from Spain with 35 Flamenco CD’s and started to transcribe pieces I wanted to add to my repertoire. At first I wrote stuff in tab and just memorized the rhythms in order to learn the piece. I also had been studying Brazilian Jazz and was learning how to properly chart out tunes. Eventually I started using Finale notation software to plug in my hand written transcriptions and it really opened up some doors for me.
Gerardo Nunez | Jucal | Bulerias - YouTube
As a part-time Classical Guitarist myself, I’ve always told my own students Flamenco and Classical Guitar are absolutely the hardest styles to play. I see your Facebook posts about putting in a minimum of 4 hours a day to keep it up.
What does a typical practice day look like for you, let’s say on a day you don’t have a performance?
Well I don’t always have 4 hours to put in, but I do see practice as a cumulative process. It’s easy to get into practice routines that become easy over time and you plateau out. I try to find “unfamiliar” things (my word for hard material) to constantly focus on. I think if it as cross training in a way. I’ll sometimes have to play a certain new technique or study 6 months and longer till I get that breakthrough.
Musicians these days have to wear so many hats that you have to really be organized and efficient in your practice time. In my early years especially when I returned from Spain I felt I had a ton of catching up to do and that I was really behind on a lot of the most basic things in Flamenco. I really thought I knew some stuff when I went to Spain and realized I didn’t know how to play for Cante (singing) or Baile (dancing). I felt I had to double up for a few years and ended up doing an unhealthy amount of playing around 12-18 hours a day till I finally injured my hand. I had to get hand surgery for a built up cyst on my left index finger. After that I restarted my technique from the ground up over a 6 month period under the tutelage of Adam Del Monte, I learned to play more efficiently with the right amount of tension and have never looked back.
Craig: Would you mind sharing an outline or list of what your practice routine looks like? For example time spent on technical exercises, repertoire, composing, etc.
As a minimum, I try and practice 90 minutes on a daily basis of scales and various techniques to keep things in shape. I practice with the same little Radio Shack timer I’ve had for several decades to keep myself honest. So when I get interrupted or have to pause to rest my hands I hit the timer.
I have several routines that I follow and they all start with a 6-10 minute left-hand only warm up that focuses on placement and pressure. I then usually warm up my right hand with Etude No. 2 or 4 from my book.
I usually will do things in 3’s. For example:
I’ll play a scale study with picado (alternating i,m) Rest stroke, Free stroke.
A combination of the two.
Then I’ll play it 3 finger usually M,I,A the same way, Rest, Free, Combo.
From there I usually go to the CAGED system that I’ve borrowed from my Rock days and play in major keys of C,G,D,A,E,B.
I’ll pick usually 3 different patterns to run through each CAGED sequence in each key. My next book will be mostly focused on CAGED which will have many of the patterns and speed bursts that we use in Flamenco.
However, when I’m preparing for a concert or a tour my routine can vary a great deal. So if I’m prepping for a Flamenco Pacifico tour, I know I’m playing my own music so I know my scales have to be up which means a major focus on picado and various thumb/ alzapua sequences with a metronome. I will also play all the pieces with my two favorite apps:
Dr. Compas Flamenco Metronome or with the album track on Amazing Slower Downer. I’ve become a big fan of slow focused practice in the past few years so many times I’ll play at 60% of the tempo and then bump it up from there in increments of ten BPM each time till I get it to concert tempo.
Recently I discovered another way of doing this slow – to A tempo practice through the App: Soundcorset
When I was prepping the “Concierto en Re” by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco last year, I had to practice things at least 20 clicks past the performance tempo. Soundcorset has this cool feature that you can plug in the duration you want to spend at each tempo before it goes up 1 BPM. I have to say though be cautious with this feature! If you go crazy on it and go too long you’ll end up with some serious tendonitis! I’m sure that if I had this technology 20 years ago I would have destroyed my hands so be careful and take breaks after each bout!
How do you approach new repertoire, for example a Classical piece? For example, do you sight-read a few times then try to memorize? Things like that,,,
When learning a new Classical guitar work I listen to it over and over and then write out a harmonic analysis. After I know the piece in my head I’ll then identify the most difficult technical sections that will need the most work. Many times I go directly to those parts and start writing out all the different fingering options.
I’ll usually play these difficult passages with all of the different right hand fingerings I could come up with until I find the best one and then I’ll get to the rest of the piece. Sometimes I actually start from the end and work backwards. It’s a pretty common thing I see especially with students where the beginning of the piece is solid and the end is weak. You have to even out all the parts in my opinion. It really depends on the piece for the approach I take.
While I’m writing this, I’m in the midst of 5 gigs this week. How do performances affect your own practice schedule? Personally, I find it better (for me) to ease up and not blow my hands out on gig days.
I started my career as a teacher which then led into background music gigs and playing a ton of corporate gigs and weddings. I was able to afford a nice lifestyle in Santa Barbara from these gigs but after a decade or so I got seriously burnt out. I didn’t become a musician to play these types of events and just pay bills.
I wanted to play concerts, compose, and record, and most importantly, be inspired… In 2008 the career that I had built fell apart when the economy collapsed. My cushy resort gig vanished and all my corporate clients had to stop the lavish spending and so almost overnight the phone stopped ringing.
I decided that this was the time to make a clean break from having to make 6k a month to cover my expenses. I drove a Mercedes and lived across the street from Kenny Loggins, didn’t have a dime in savings and was completely delusional. I decided to let it all go and file for bankruptcy.
I moved back in with my Mom, rented a tiny studio and started practicing 8 hours a day again. I was determined to make a concert career but a bit unsure about how to go about it. About a year later I met my wife. She hired me for a party for a group of Filipino doctors. We fell in love and decided we’d start a family. She’d pay the bills, I’d be the stay at home Dad and I’d have the time and resources to figure out this concert career. When my daughter turned 2 we decide to leave California and move to Oregon. I figured starting fresh somewhere would be the best thing.
We moved to Corvallis, Oregon where I began the Corvallis Guitar Society. I was playing a lot of Classical when I moved to Oregon and had taken a few years to restart my technique from the ground up. I would spend 2 hours a day on developing free stroke scales and going in between rest and free (a Scott Tennant specialty). Then I would spend a few hours playing repertoire but not like you would think. I would play super slow with really awkward fingerings. Mainly I worked on 3 Barrios pieces – Estudio Concierto, Las Abejas, and La Catedral (allegro movement).
After a few years in Oregon I decided to focus on my original Flamenco music again which has given me more freedom in the way that I practice. I play between 2-4 hours a day now on a regular basis. I usually am always practicing with the next concert in mind so that’s what decides what I work on. On concert days I try to only practice 1-2 hours and usually like half tempo.
Berto: I’ve been writing studies for myself for over 20 years to continually develop my technique. This book is focused on what I’ve been personally working on for the last few years.
Every guitarist has their own technical demons to work out, so I figured why not publish some of them! For the most part this book shows my path to developing “conscious” slip finger approach as opposed to the the traditional strict alternation way of playing scales with i and m.
Every guitarist has different lengths in fingers and some hands have advantages over others. These are studies that worked for my hands. Guitar technique is super personal but I figured why not share some of the things that have given me some breakthroughs in my own personal practice.
Etude # 3 From Berto’s Book:
“Etude no. 3 was designed to work out speed bursts in scales with the use of “Slip Finger”. Slip Finger is an alternate way to cross strings on descending scales with only using the index finger. Used by players such as Pepe Romero, Pepe Habichuela, and Jose Luis de la Paz, this technique has it’s advantange if the players middle finger is much longer than the index. It is still recommended to use strict alternation whenever possible so proceed with caution!
Any word on a Volume 2? Anything else you’re planning on publishing?
Volume 2 is going to dive deep into my personal take on CAGED systems. Knowing the fretboard is a useful tool and the Segovia scales are almost useless in a real world situation. So this will be another book of my own personal routine that involves the main keys we play in as guitarists and the patterns that kick my ass on a daily basis!
I also plan to publish many of my own original compositions this year. On my storefront you’ll also find a handful of my transcriptions of my friend Jose Luis de la Paz as well as a complete technique book ( these all have videos too) for studies that molded his hands. Berto’s Flamenco Transcription Storefront
When I contacted you, you said you were currently on tour. Is that with Flamenco Pacifico? What are you up to currently?
Currently, I am obsessed with skating as much as possible now that we are finally getting some dry weather! This winter was a real bitch especially after finishing the Castelnuovo-Tedesco concerto in December.
I happily just returned from 10 days in San Francisco where I was working with Jose Luis de la Paz and the Oakland Youth Symphony. We were there mainly to perform a few movements from Suite Avalon which is a huge work I put a ton of time into transcribing (over 500 hours). It’s a 48 minute concerto for Flamenco guitar and Orchestra scored by Alex Conde. We debuted it a few years ago in Miami. Here’s a video of the process:
Suite Avalon The Process - Jose Luis de la Paz - YouTube
While we were there, we played a house concert, did some film scoring for the movie “Finding Compas” starring Farruquito, and hung out with some friends. It was a much needed trip out of rainy Portland. Flamenco Pacifico is currently on sabbatical till our Fall tour this year. In the meantime though I’m working on releasing a few singles along with music transcriptions.
In the next few months I’ll be preparing for a joint benefit concert with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and Adam Del Monte in Paradise, CA. Our microphone endorser The2Mic is hosting this to help the fire victims of the Paradise Wildfire from last year.
Where can my readers find your music. (Your preferred place for them to buy it etc..)
That’s a good question! Everyone seems to have their own preference these days. To stream or not to stream? The Flamenco Pacifico album is up on all platforms so it’s up to them!
7 Essential Jazz Chords and Scale Study – The Girl From Ipanema
An analysis, lesson and study of a really classic Jazz / Pop tune, The Girl From Ipanema.
In this Guitar lesson:
Girl From Ipanema Chord Chart
Chord Analysis Section A
Chord Analysis Section B
Soloing and Improvisation Ideas – The Essential Scales
Practice Backing Track
Every once in a while I need to write a lesson for myself as well as for my readers and students. Whenever I’m forced to play anything on the guitar outside of my comfort zone, I do my best to research and learn any new techniques I may need to get it under my fingers as quickly and painlessly as possible.
I’m not a Jazz guitar player, but I play some Jazz. Make no mistake, there is a difference. I was bred a rock, metal and later classical guy. I love to improvise and its a huge part of what I do performance-wise at all of my gigs, but I often lack the “jazz” vocabulary required to sound convincing in the genre.
Thats where the research and study comes in. So why put myself (or yourself) through it? Obviously, anything you can add to your guitarist toolbox is good for you but there are other reasons as well.
Learning new techniques that enhance what you’re already good at.
Adding new chords, scales, arpeggios associated with them can only make you a better musician and guitarist.
Learning an uncomfortable song or piece for your band or musical group.
Increasing your overall guitar and music vocabulary.
Lets face it.. no matter what kind of band you’re in, whether its a beginning garage band or corporate pop band doing 300+ shows a year, at some point you will be forced to play something your either don’t like; or is outside of your comfort zone on the instrument.
A few weeks ago the singer from my acoustic duo asked me about adding some Jazz standards and more lounge type music that she thought would be good for us getting more corporate and resort type gigs.
We do just over 200 gigs a year now, but why not add some music that makes us more diverse and prepared for different types of venues and of course… this stuff is just fun to play.
As a guitar lesson, you’re getting what most would agree to be 7 really essential and useful chord shapes that you may not have come across or used in other types of guitar music. Chances are, if you can play through the chords in The Girl From Ipanema, you could tackle 90% of the standards out there. So let’s get started!
Jazz Fake Books
If you’re wanting to expand your chord volcabulary and work on many different Jazz standards and progressions, get a fake book or Real Book. When I started playing guitar, these things were super expensive and hard to find. Nowadays, they’re cheap and available just about everywhere. This is the one I use that’s available on Amazon. It’s a steal and should be a part of every guitarists library.
The Girl From Ipanema Chord Chart
If you already have a Real Book, turn to page 158 and grab the chart. I’ve included my own version here if you don’t.
At a glance, I thought to myself… hey, no problem. There’s not a chord on here I don’t know and I can just put a little Bossa nova feel to it and we’re good to go.
If you’re not familiar with these chords or like many guitarists, perhaps uncomfortable with switching between them, let’s grab some shapes in the first section and put it together.
Girl From Ipanema – A Section
Let’s focus just on clean strums and transitioning smoothly into each chord form. Don’t worry about the rhythm yet.
Now, if you’ve ever read or studied some jazz guitar lessons you’ve probably heard different opinions on chord voicings that are suitable or supposedly the best for jazz guitar accompaniment.
I’ve read you should never put the root in the bass.
Stay away from the melody in the voicings.
Don’t use the low A and E strings.
Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t need to be that complicated. Maybe if you’re in a quartet with a Pianist, sure. I can see the benefit. If you’re just a guitarist like me providing the only rhythmic and melodic accompaniment, trust me, you’ll want to use the beefiest chords available with the root notes in the bass.
Let’s take a look at the first 4 chords of The Girl From Ipanema:
F Major 7
G7 or G13 (We could also call it an “add13”)
F Major 7
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the I chord in the Key of F Major: F G A Bb C D E F
G7 or G13
We could think of the G7 as a Secondary Dominant. Think of it as the V chord of C, which is the 5th of F.
A secondary dominant is a dominant 7 chord built from another note or chord tone (5th) of the root (F). Sound confusing? Let’s break it down even further:
G A Bb C is the 5th D E F
Take the 5th (C) and build a C scale:
C D E F G is the 5th (dominant 7) of C A B C
So, that’s how we get G7 as a secondary dominant.
The Gm7 that follows goes back into the key of F as the ii chord. Remember that the 2nd chord in every key is minor or minor 7.
A chromatic transitioning chord that connects the Gm7 back down to the F Major7.
It acts as a substitute for the V chord (C7) in the Key of F.
This chord is really what gives this part of the song it’s unique flavor and color. It’s also just a really cool chord and one that can be used to connect non-diatonic notes to other chords in a key.
At the end of the A section there is a repeat and the second time through you’ll just hang on the F Maj7 for a full bar before moving into the B section. (Note: A triangle is often used in Jazz charts to indicate a Major 7th chord)
The Girl From Ipanema B Section
This is where it gets a little weird, especially if you’re new to Jazz tunes. Let’s take a look at the first chunk of chords.
I think of this as a modulation up a half-step to Gb/F#. Then up a 4th to the B9.
Switching the Gb to a m7 is unexpected, but it works!
I think of the D9 as up a minor 6th from Gb.
An identical modulation up a half-step and then up a minor 6th from G to E9.
The last set of chords also follows a pattern:
Am7 up a 4th to D7b9
Drop a whole step to Gm7 up a 4th to C7b9
Then you go back to Section A (Chorus) and repeat!
That’s it. Not too bad when you break it down right?
Tips For Practicing
Learn all 7 chord forms.
Slowly strum and switch through the chart.
Make slow deliberate left hand movements.
Once you feel comfortable, set your metronome to 90 bpm and try it up to speed.
Want a high quality .PDF of this lesson including audio and Guitar Pro Files? Jump on the email list to access this free lesson and get access to the Guitar Printables Area.
Soloing Ideas for The Girl From Ipanema
Once you get a handle on switching through the chords in The Girl From Ipanema, try soling over the changes. It’s a real challenge and a lot of fun for guitarists of any skill level. Armed with some handy scale patterns (below) and a backing track or looper, try to improvise over the chord changes.
For the purposes of this lesson, I’m just going to use scales for the examples. Don’t forget, you can also use any arpeggios that lie within the scales as well. If you’d like to check out some arpeggio shapes, check out my free arpeggio lesson.
Chord – F Maj7
Scale – F Ionian
Let’s not overthink things too much here. The obvious choice is just to stick to the key of F as much as possible.
Remember: Any of the Modes in F Major will work over a lot of this section.
Note: The chord tones of the F Maj7 chord outlined in red.
If you’ve read my previous lesson on chord formulas you may remember that a 13 chord is just a dominant 7th with a few extra scale tones added, the 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th. Since we only have 6 strings on the guitar, it’s technically impossible to play a true Dom13 chord… that’s ok, the G13 (aka G7add13) shape in the chart above is a pretty standard guitar substitution and sounds great.
The obvious choice here for soloing is to play G Mixolydian: G A B C D E F G
G Mixolydian is the 5th mode of C. It’s also only one note away from the Key of F. The conflicting note is the B-Bb. No problem!
You could use both B and Bb in the scale to get a sort of #9 sound as long as you leave the B in there since it’s an important note (the Major 3rd) of the G13 chord.
Lydian Dominant Scale
Another cool choice for playing over this chord is the G Lydian Dominant Scale. A.K.A., the 4th mode of the D Melodic Minor Scale.
Our lone rebel scale in the B section is the Half-Whole diminished scale, which fits perfectly over the 7b9 chords here.
D7b9 = Scale – D Half -Whole Diminished (1-b2-b3-3-#4-5-6-b7)
C7b9 = Scale – C Half -Whole Diminished (1-b2-b3-3-#4-5-6-b7)
Girl From Ipanema Backing Track
Here’s a great backing track you can use to try these ideas for improvising as well as practice your chord switching and rhythm timing. The chords in this track are slightly different than my arrangement but all of the concepts above will work fine with it. Happy practicing!